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Top House Republican says budget plan to move ahead

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WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are moving ahead with their long-overdue budget blueprint, even as divisions between moderates and conservatives over cutting programs like food stamps threaten passage of the measure.

Passing the measure is a prerequisite to GOP efforts to overhaul the tax code, a top priority of President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Friday the House Budget Committee will vote next week on the plan, which would spend far more money next year than Trump has proposed.

Earlier divisions have been resolved between GOP defense hawks and the party's tough-on-spending wing. The Pentagon emerged a big winner with a $30 billion increase over Trump's budget, but divisions remain between tea party forces and Republican moderates.

The current holdup involves whether to use Washington's arcane budget process to force cuts to mandatory programs, such as food stamps or pension benefits for federal workers. Tea party lawmakers are demanding spending cuts from mandatory programs to make up for increased spending on the Pentagon.

House Republicans expect Senate Democrats to press for increases in nondefense spending, and if those are factored in, the GOP's current plan for savings looks pretty paltry.

"Give me a break," said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

But moderates, some of whom cast dangerous votes for the GOP's unpopular health measure, are uneasy about voting for further cuts.

"If you throw in food stamps and other mandatory programs, then you set yourself up for the argument that you're cutting taxes for businesses and wealthy people while you're removing eligibility for people on food stamps," said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa.

McCarthy also says GOP leaders are pondering a move to bundle a separate $1.2 trillion package of 12 spending bills into a single omnibus spending bill for a lengthy floor debate at the end of the month. Typically work on the spending bills follows passage of the budget measure. The budget, which was supposed to pass in April, is so far behind that the rival Appropriations Committee is almost finished with writing its 12 bills.

But floor action on the spending measures will be tricky since Democrats are opposed to many of them.

"We could go all 12," McCarthy in a brief interview outside his Capitol office. Or, McCarthy said, the spending bills could be wrapped into several smaller bundles. "We'll make that decision next week."

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